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The Leslieville-Riverdale Tree Project

Our local tree canopy needs your help and so does our air!
The Leslieville-Riverdale Tree Project supports neighbours to green our streets. Free front yard trees are available from the City. Navigate the red tape and get more green in our neighbourhood!


Care For Your Tree

Maintain a Wide Circle of Mulch
The majority of tree roots grow outward not downward. Approximately 90% of a tree’s roots are found in the top 12-18 inches of soil and can extend out up to 3 times the height of the tree. These “feeder” roots must compete with grass and other plants for the water and oxygen they need for photosynthesis and growth.

Applying a mixture of woodchips, leaves and compost is one of the best things you can do for your tree’s health. The mulch mimics a natural forest floor, keeping the soil at the base of your tree moist, adding organic matter as it decomposes and reducing competition from grass and weeds. Spread mulch in a circle around your trees as far out as you are willing (the bigger the circle the better for the tree) but ensure that it is not more than three inches deep so that roots can still get oxygen. Keep mulch in a doughnut shape, ensuring it is not touching the trunk as this can cause moisture build up at the trunk base.

Water Every Week!
The most important factor in growth rate and vigour of a tree is water. Toronto has experienced severe drought for the last several summers. When it does rain approximately 75% of the water runs off paved surfaces into the storm sewers never reaching the trees that desperately need it. Most trees (even large, mature ones) don’t get the water they need.

Almost every tree in Toronto will experience drought stress this summer, making them vulnerable to pest and disease attacks. If you notice leaf discolouration, deformation, wilting or loss, your tree may be experiencing severe drought. Run for the hose!

For the first two years after planting, water for 30 minutes, twice per week. In the third year, once per week give your tree a deep soaking. A soaker hose spread in concentric circles out to the edge of the tree’s canopy is the best way to water. If you don’t have a soaker hose, place a hose without a nozzle in the root area of your tree on a very slow trickle. Move the hose to a new area under the tree periodically to ensure all roots get even watering. Never use a sprinkler to water, since wet leaves are often prone to fungal disease.

In a pinch, use a bucket - two buckets of water twice per week will support your tree in its first two years.

Newly planted trees sometimes require temporary staking. This is usually only the case if the tree is at risk of vandalism, or if it is large and at risk of blowing over in the wind. Smaller trees will move in the wind, but are unlikely to blow over. Some movement is good, since root and trunk growth will respond and anchor the tree more securely.

Always remove stakes and ties after one year.

As trees get established and begin to grow, they may lean if they are reaching for light. It is best to correct this problem by removing the source of the shade. This may mean pruning overhanging branches of other trees. Once the light reaches the younger tree evenly, it should compensate with growth and straighten itself.

Be Careful Pruning
During the first 3 years after planting, only dead, diseased or damaged branches should be removed.

As trees grow, they do not necessarily need to be pruned further. Corrective pruning is usually done four to seven years after planting, depending on species and rate of growth. This may include removing branches that rub, grow too closely together, or grow in undesirable directions.

Please research proper pruning techniques before undertaking any work yourself! Trees should only be pruned by certified arborists- trained, tree care specialists who have the knowledge and equipment to do the job.

6 Things to Avoid

  • Tying or Attaching Things to Trees
    Rope, string or wire tied around any part of a tree can cause serious damage. Trees grow a new layer of tissue every year. When this growth is restricted, the flow of water and nutrients up and down the tree is affected. Avoid nailing birdhouses or other objects to trees as these create entry wounds for pests and disease.
  • Root Damage
    Don’t forget that roots extend out up to 3 times the height of the tree. Do not install paving or interlocking brick near trees. When doing renovation or construction in your yard, establish wide tree protection zones. Piling soil or other materials around the base of trees is a common mistake that can be fatal to trees.
  • Salt
    Salt applied to walkways, driveways and porches in winter works its way into the ground. The trees in you yard can be negatively affected during spring melt when they begin absorbing water. Try chopping away ice in winter and using sand as an alternative.
  • Lawn Mower Damage
    Lawn mower damage is the number 2 killer of young trees, second only to drought! Establish a wide circle of mulch to protect the base of you tree from mowers and weed-whackers.
  • High Nitrogen Fertilizers
    Fertilizing your lawn or garden will also affect your trees. High nitrogen fertilizers can cause a rapid increase in height before the diameter of the trunk is large enough to support it. Sprinkling compost is a more balanced way of feeding you lawn or garden and will be beneficial for your tree.
  • Pesticides & Herbicides
    Always use non-toxic alternatives to chemical pesticides. For serious infestations contact an arborist. Inquire about non-chemical methods of treatment.